By chance I happened to be checking my emails one afternoon when one popped up from Jacquie Robson that there might be places available to club members for the Great North Run on a first come first served basis. A very quick reply and I was in.
This would be my first road half marathon since the last time I ran it in 2012 so I was hoping for some sort of improvement. I put a lot of focus into speed training, turning up for Alan’s track sessions when I could but also needed to keep my weekly mileage as high as possible as I would be running the Hardmoors 60 a week after the GNR.
On race day I travelled up to Newcastle with my brother, who’d done all of a bout 5 training runs ahead of this. He was looking to just get from Newcastle to South Shields without being sick. Although there was never any danger of him beating me, I still wanted to put in a good performance over him (brotherly love and all that!).
As we travelled on the Metro to the start I explained the nuances of the course and how he should attack it – don’t charge off like a madman at the start being the main focus of my advice.
Having explained this tactic to my brother, it was down to me to take my own advice, and as the start approached it was hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere. Love it or hate it, there is a really special atmosphere generated at this race.
Once the race started I had no trouble staying at a steady pace, but found it difficult to not weave in and out of people so on occasions I found myself running at a slower pace than I would have liked. But I wasn’t worried about this, I was moving along comfortably and passing over the Tyne Bridge is always a highlight.
Then it was the tough part in my eyes – the climb up the A184 to Heworth and White Mare Pool. This takes me past my office so I know it well. I kept a steady pace and tried not to stumble on people ahead.
As I approached the halfway mark I was still running slightly slower than I would have like but still at a good pace and feeling really comfortable.
As the race progressed towards South Shields it was good to get the support of the crowds and hear the various bands playing.
Miles 10 to 12 are always tough with the steady climb towards the coast, and as I approached the top of the hill just before the roundabout I was greeted with cheers from the Waltons. They gave me a much needed boost but Graham’s shout of “Paul (Swinburne) is just ahead” gave me an incentive to push on.
As I looked up I could see Paul around 200/300 meters ahead so it was my challenge to try and wheel him in before the end. With my mind focused I hit the final mile along the coast feeling exhausted but determined to finish strongly.
The crowds are brilliant along this stretch and really help to push you on. I managed to overhaul Paul and finished with a time of 1:36:54, a good 6 minute improvement on my last outing. It wasn’t quite the 1:35 that I’d have liked but never the less I was happy and with the Hardmoors 60 the following week on my mind, I didn’t go flat out to get it.
After congratulating Paul and letting him know how he’d helped me in the final mile (he gave some excuse about cycling 60 miles the previous day!) I went of to find my wife and daughter and then waited to see if my brother would make it in. I finally spotted him at the 12 mile mark, red faced but looking focused to finish in 2hrs20mins. Not bad for a fat lad (his words).